EDITORIAL: We must prepare

There are just about two weeks to go before the official end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The season has been relatively kind to the Caribbean region, not bringing many major hurricanes that have resulted in untold damage, certainly not the likes of what we have seen in previous years. Naturally we may want to breathe a sigh of relief, but then we remember we are still in 2020 - the year that keeps on giving.

As if the COVID-19 pandemic was not bad enough, this hurricane season has been the most active on record, with storms forming at a record-breaking rate and it has marked the sixth straight year that the season has started early. If we cast our minds back to the fact that the first three named storms were all formed by June 1 - the official start of the season, it perhaps should come as no surprise that it has shattered the record for the most named storms in the Atlantic. To date we have had 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, six major hurricanes and one Category 5 hurricane, the first to carry a name from the Greek alphabet. This is also the second time that officials have had to resort to the use of the Greek alphabet to name storms, after exhausting the list of 21 names allocated for this year.

At present we are up to Iota, of which remnants remained in the Central American region up to yesterday, and there were reports that forecasters were keeping their eyes on two disturbances in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. But normally by now tropical storm activity would have wrapped up. The told sailor's poem said, 'June too soon; July stand by; August, come they must; September remember; October all over', but such is definitely not the case anymore, for we are in November, and just days ago we saw Hurricane Iota form and wreak havoc on Nicaragua and Honduras.

While there is no way to tell if the disturbances that are being monitored will develop into anything more, what is clear is that even though the hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, storms can indeed form at any time and we therefore must be ever vigilant and prepared. Given that reality, perhaps the days of a designated timeframe for the hurricane season may need to be altered or even abandoned altogether.

Now, while Barbados and other countries in the Eastern Caribbean have so far been spared hurricane or storm activity, we have not entirely dodged the bullet. Many of our countries have experienced unstable weather conditions that have resulted in significant amounts of rainfall, causing flooding in many of our countries, destroying crops, homes, businesses and even claiming a few lives.

The rains that resulted in floodwaters uprooting trees and washing at least one vehicle off the road here in St. Lucy last weekend, resulting in the death of a young man, should open our eyes to the fact that disaster is not only caused by hurricanes. We tend to think of intense showers like what we have seen in recent weeks as just rain, believing that it will not cause too much damage, but we have seen the damage to homes, road infrastructure and the like, and this should encourage us to take heed when we hear the flood watches and warning issued by the Met Office.  

Remember too that we are an earthquake-prone region, and while we here in Barbados have felt only minor tremors in the last few years, we cannot for a moment believe that we are safe. These scenarios should bring home forcefully the importance of comprehensive disaster management. There is a need for a cultural shift in that direction, putting the requisite measures in place to prepare for, and in the aftermath, deal with all types of hazards - natural and man-made. Hopefully our people recognise this, and do so sooner rather than later.

Barbados Advocate

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